By Ahmet Abdulaziz…..
During the last couple of weeks, the local police have started a campaign against the illegal workers. Almost every day, we come across news with photos in the Turkish language newspapers, showing one or more illegal workers nabbed by the police. The ongoing campaign is a part of cleanup operation started off after some foreigners in the TRNC were found involved in some serious crimes.
So far I think the number of illegal workers has reached over a hundred. In a small country like TRNC, even a hundred is a big figure, but I believe that it’s just a fraction of illegal workers in the country.
However, when I discuss the issue of illegal workers, it automatically covers those people also who are continuing in work without legal documents. I accept them as illegal workers because they do work somewhere to earn a living.
I personally appreciate the ongoing campaign of the police and hope that it would help in getting rid of, if not completely but a sizeable proportion, of illegal workers in the country. Most of these illegal workers are from third world countries.
We see that the pattern of low wage workers has changed a lot during the last ten or so years. The Turkish workers from mainland Turkey have slowly left the workplace to the workers from third world countries. The main reason for this is that the workers from third world countries are cheaper as compared to Turkish workers.
(I accept that my knowledge of legal provisions regarding working is weak, so those who want to go through the relevant laws, can find that information on the Ministry of Labour and Social Security website click here)
However, when we look further into the issue of illegal workers, we can divide them into 2 classes. One type of worker is those who come to the TRNC as workers through a proper channel, after completing all documentary requirements. Most of them complete their tenure and get their work permit renewed. However, there are many, who leave their jobs without completing the legal period of their work permits. The employer, in that case, gets their work permits cancelled.
Thus such workers become illegal workers if they do not find some other job for which they get a new work permit. It is usually difficult to go through this process successfully, as there are time limits for completing various procedures for this.
Once out of a job, workers usually fail to get all their necessary legal paperwork done during the prescribed period. In case of failure, they become an illegal worker. Once someone becomes an illegal worker, and as the time passes by, the chances of them becoming a legal worker becomes remote.
For them, the most preferred way out is to go back to their home country, and then if they want to return back, they should complete all legal formalities once again.
But very few opt for this option. The majority prefer to stay, find some job, keep on working as an illegal worker, and wait for a change in the employment rules and regulations. The practice of converting the illegal workers into a legal one, by paying fines, after every five or more years, has become a practice in the country. Thus all illegal workers usually pin all their hopes on this.
There is another form of illegal worker in the TRNC. They are the workers who come here to work, but get themselves registered as a student in a university in the TRNC. The introduction of evening classes in some universities has in fact prompted such workers, who work in daytime, and then attend their classes in the evening. Here I would not discuss how difficult it is to attend the classes and then do the assignments, and go through regular tests and examinations, after working (mostly as cheap labour) the whole day. But there are hundreds of such workers in the TRNC who are registered as students in some universities.
The prevailing law allows a registered student to work, but with certain limits and conditions. Unfortunately, most of these student workers do not work according to these frames of rules and regulations. A sizeable number of students from Asian and African countries usually fall in this category. Most of them do not have student work permits. So they too thus fall into the category of illegal workers.
The police are now pursuing all such illegal workers. They are catching them, locking them up, taking them to the court, and then sending them back to their home countries.
Up to this point, everything seems normal. The culprits (illegal workers) are going to be punished for their wrongdoings.
However, there is yet another very important aspect that has been ignored. They say that it needs two hands to clap. So one hand is the illegal worker, and the other one is the employer who gives work to these illegal workers. Are they not guilty? Are they not equally at fault along with the illegal workers?
The employers usually take illegal workers, just because they (illegal workers) do not have bargaining power. They just want to earn something to survive. Thus an illegal worker is the cheapest form of labour in the country. This is not the case in TRNC only. Everywhere it is the same. The employer takes the cheapest labour, and the cheapest labour everywhere is the illegal workers.
So when the police are carrying out a campaign against the illegal workers, I believe that they must also take strict actions against those employers who give them work. They too should have been taken to court handcuffed, with their names and identities published in the press along with their photographs. This is what is done in the case of the illegal workers. Every day we see their photos in Turkish language newspapers. But so far I have not seen any photo showing any employer who had employed the illegal workers, handcuffed, walking with the police to the court.
Why is it so? Does anybody know and what can be done about it?